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Ombudsman will review use of security cameras in taxis

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Aug 2, 2002

As a result of issues raised to the Ombudsman’s Office, the Manitoba Ombudsman will review the use of security cameras in taxicabs to ensure that their use, while protecting the safety of cab drivers, does not contravene personal information privacy protection requirements under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

“The Ombudsman’s Office supports the use of security cameras in taxicabs by the taxicab industry as a means of enhancing safety, and, at present, we have no reason to conclude that the information being collected is not being used or handled in compliance with FIPPA guidelines,” said Ombudsman Barry Tuckett. “Nevertheless, as the use of in-cab security cameras is a new initiative in Manitoba, it is necessary, prudent, and in the public interest to review how the information being collected in taxicabs is being used, disclosed, and stored to ensure that lawful rights to privacy are being respected and that personal information is not disclosed for unauthorized purposes.”

The Ombudsman’s review will largely focus on the framework by which images collected in taxicabs are collected, used, disclosed, and stored. In-cab security cameras became mandatory in Manitoba on July 1, 2002, following recommendations presented to the Manitoba Government in the Taxi-cab Safety Issue Report submitted by the Working Group on Taxi-cab Safety.

Consistent with various provisions of FIPPA, which allow personal information to be collected, used, and disclosed for law enforcement purposes or crime prevention, the Ombudsman stated that he has no problem with the use of cameras in taxicabs to collect data that will protect the safety of cab drivers and passengers.

“Every action or decision by a public authority in a democratic society needs to have a reason,” said the Ombudsman. “The bigger picture here is that this security measure does not become subject to function creep leading to indiscriminate, widespread, and unchecked surveillance of people in general.”

As stated in FIPPA, one of the purposes of the Act is to control the manner in which public bodies may collect personal information from individuals and to protect individuals against unauthorized use or disclosure of personal information by public bodies. The Act also provides for an independent review of the decisions of public bodies by the Manitoba Ombudsman

Created in 1970, the Office of the Manitoba Ombudsman exists to promote fairness, equity and administrative accountability through independent and impartial investigation of complaints and legislative compliance reviews. An Access and Privacy Division, created in 1998, investigates complaints and reviews compliance under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and The Personal Health Information Act.